Visiting L-300 StarLifters


United States Air Force C-141 StarLifters were fairly common visitors to Australia during their forty years of service (1965-2006). However, there was one StarLifter visitor which deserves special mention. This was the sole civil L-300-50A (MSN 300-6110) N4141A which visited Australia as the Lockheed company demonstrator in August 1966. The aircraft remained in Sydney for several days awaiting parts for a damaged undercarriage. There were no civil orders forthcoming so in 1974, the aircraft was delivered to NASA's Ames Research Center who operated it as N714NA out of Moffett Field, California. Fitted with a 91cm telescope, it was dedicated as the Gerard P. Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) on 21 May 1975. The telescope was used for infrared astronomy at altitudes up to 45,000 feet. The aircraft was retired in 1995 and replaced by the SOFIA Boeing 747SP. Although withdrawn from service, the StarLifter was still intact at Moffett Field as recently as 2011.

Several StarLifters were in Australia in October 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson became the first ever US President to visit Australia. LBJ toured Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Townsville between 20 and 23 October 1966. Air Force One on this occasion was Boeing VC-137C 62-6000. Issue Number 1 of a planning document issued on 19 October 1966, most likely by DCA, records the following planned StarLifter movements.

 

DATE
C-141A
SECTOR
DOORS CLOSE
DOORS OPEN
19OCT66
65-0273
Wellington-Canberra
-
1600
20OCT66
65-0273
Canberra-Manila
0700
-
20OCT66
64-0630
Ohakea-Canberra
-
1800
20OCT66
65-0266
Ohakea-Canberra
-
2019
20OCT66
65-0223
Ohakea-Essendon
-
2200
21OCT66
65-0223
Essendon-Sydney
2045
2200
22OCT66
65-0223
Sydney-Brisbane
1545
1715
22OCT66
64-0630
Canberra-Brisbane
1930
2100
22OCT66
65-0266
Canberra-Brisbane
2030
2200
22OCT66
65-0223
Brisbane-Manila
2200
-
22OCT66
64-0630
Brisbane-Townsville
2200
2340
23OCT66
65-0266
Brisbane-Bangkok
1300
-

 

Given that this schedule was issued on the day of the first arrival, its contents should be reasonably accurate. However, it must be noted that Essendon Newsletter of October 1966 records two additional StarLifters as per the table below. This is supported by the Journal of the Aviation Historical Society of Australia (Vol. VII No. 5 of September-October 1966) which states that six (6) StarLifters visited but it does not record serial numbers.

64-0630 21 & 24OCT66 -
65-0223 21OCT66 -
65-0233 21OCT66 Not included in above table
64-0629 23OCT66 Not included in above table

 



On 15 March 1966, Lockheed C-141A StarLifter 64-0628 (MSN 300-6041) visited RAAF Base Fairbairn (Canberra) with 39 members of the U.S. National War College on a South-East Asia tour. A Tiger Moth has been posed with the StarLifter for this RAAF publicity photograph. This may have been one of the earliest StarLifter visits to Australia. Picture: RAAF
Lockheed C-141A StarLifter 65-0263 (MSN 300-6115) at Essendon where it arrived on 20 December 1967 before ferrying to Tullamarine the following day. The aircraft was supporting the visit by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson for the funeral of Australian Prime Minister, Harold Holt, which was held in Melbourne on 22 December. C-141A 65-0263 was accompanied by C-141A 67-0008 (MSN 300-6259) each carrying a Presidential automobile. Air Force One on this occasion was Boeing VC-137A 58-6970. The aircraft in the foreground of this photograph is Boeing VC-137B 62-4125. The number of visiting aircraft overwhelmed the tarmac at Essendon so several aircraft were ferried to Melbourne's new airport at Tullamarine which did not open until 1 July 1970. (Source: Essendon Newsletter No 19 by Gordon Reid)Picture: CAHS
L-300-50A StarLifter N4141A (MSN 300-6110) at Mascot, Sydney on 27 August 1966.
Picture: Eric Allen
L-300-50A StarLifter N4141A (MSN 300-6110) at Mascot, Sydney on 27 August 1966.
Picture: Eric Allen
L-300-50A StarLifter N4141A (MSN 300-6110) at Mascot, Sydney on 27 August 1966.
Picture:
Eric Allen
L-300-50A StarLifter N4141A (MSN 300-6110) at Mascot, Sydney on 27 August 1966.
Picture:
Eric Allen
L-300-50A StarLifter N4141A (MSN 300-6110) at Mascot, Sydney on 27 August 1966.
Picture:
Eric Allen
NASA's N714NA (MSN 300-6110) at Melbourne, Tullamarine in March 1977.
Picture: Mike Madden (M158)
N714NA (MSN 300-6110) with revised NASA markings at Melbourne, Tullamarine in July 1994. The aircraft flew several sorties to observe the intersection of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with the atmosphere of Jupiter. Picture: Peter Gates Collection (AH011)
As a reminder of what most of them looked like, this is C-141A 65-0277 (MSN 300-6129) at Brisbane on 27 February 1978. Picture: Ron Cuskelly (M375)
C-141A 65-0277 (MSN 300-6129) at Brisbane on 28 February 1978.
Picture: Ron Cuskelly (M395)
The cockpit of C-141A 65-0233 (MSN 300-6084) at Brisbane on 27 February 1978.
Picture: Ron Cuskelly (M344)
C-141B 65-9399 (MSN 300-6136) at Brisbane on 5 October 1983.
Picture: Ron Cuskelly (X073)
C-141B 66-0180 (MSN 300-6026) at Brisbane on 18 October 1987. The aircraft was supporting the Thunderbirds during their Far East tour. Note the Thunderbirds emblems on the tail and aft of the crew door. At the time, the StarLifter was using the callsign Thunderbird 14. C-141B 66-0150 also supported the team as Thunderbird 24. The Thunderbirds and their support aircraft operated out of the new Brisbane Airport which did not open officially until March 1988. Picture: Ron Cuskelly (AC366)
C-141B 66-0161 (MSN 300-6187) at Brisbane on 23 June 1988. The aircraft is wearing the European 1 camouflage scheme which was more commonly known as the Lizard scheme. Picture: David Sparks (AD379)
C-141B 66-0185 (MSN 300-6211) of the Mississippi Air National Guard wearing the so-called Equipment Excellence Gray scheme at Brisbane on 14 March 1995. The overall grey scheme was also known as Air Mobility Command Proud Gray. This aircraft was one of 63 C-141Bs that were later upgraded to C-141C with a new wing box and glass cockpit amongst other mods.Picture: Ron Cuskelly (AH086)

 

 

Issue
Date
Remarks
5
28MAR20
Added a schedule of the C-141 StarLifters that supported the 1966 Australian visit by POTUS.
4
25MAR20
Expanded the caption for the photo of 65-0263.
3
22MAR20
Added six new images (see last 6 rows).
2
20MAR20
Added photos of 64-0628 and 65-0263.
1
25JUL19
Original issue.



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